AG Opinion Determines Teachers Retirement System Due Millions

Post date: Nov 29, 2010 9:07:07 PM

For the 2010-2011 budget year the legislature did not appropriate via line item any funding for the Teacher Retirement Offset. The State Board of Education failed to include that funding in its budget. So it was unclear how the missing retirement funds should be paid.

The state attorney general has ruled that the OTRS should receive the corresponding $35 million from the State Department of Education. So the missing funding should not come from teachers' pockets, although it is unclear how the State Department of Education will cover the shortfall.

Below is a press release from the Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System.

OTRS Will Receive $35 Million to Pay Teachers Retirement Benefits

OKLAHOMA CITY – The head of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System (OTRS) today

expressed relief that the agency will receive the $35 million it needs to pay the retirement credits

of Oklahoma’s public school teachers. An opinion issued today by Oklahoma Attorney General

Drew Edmondson says the OTRS should receive its annual allocation from the State Department

of Education regardless of whether or not the Oklahoma Legislature passed line item direction to

fund the credit. The OTRS requested the AG opinion at its August Board meeting.

“We realize the State Department of Education was trying to make the best of an incredibly

difficult budget year,” said Dr. James Wilbanks, executive director of the OTRS. “But trying to

balance their budget by ignoring the law and shorting the already financially imperiled OTRS

was fiscally irresponsible. The State of Oklahoma has an obligation to its retired educators. I’m

confident our legislators understand and support the decision of the Attorney General that this

money should come to OTRS. I’m anticipating the State Department will rectify the situation.”

Historically, $35 million is allocated in the State Board of Education’s budget to send to OTRS

to pay for these credits. The OTRS applies that money toward the retirement plans of nearly

90,000 active teachers. But in the 2010 legislative session, the State Board of Education did not

receive the annual legislative line item request for specific programs such as the OTRS

retirement credit. In July, the OTRS learned the State Board of Education adopted a FY-2011

budget which did not allocate the money to OTRS for teachers’ retirement contributions.

The OTRS is a state agency that administers retirement assets and provides income security

through a monthly retirement benefit payable to its clients, who are educators and employees of

Oklahoma’s public education institutions and agencies.